AirPods Pro 2 latency is much better but will still disappoint, here's why

AirPods Pro 2 on a mosaic table
(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

Wireless latency is always a concern with any headphones or earbuds that use Bluetooth, but a new report points out that AirPods Pro 2 are way better than the generation they replace. But they still aren't quite good enough.

Musician and developer Stephen Coyle has tested the latency of the first-gen AirPods, AirPods 2, AirPods Pro, and AirPods Pro 2 to see how well all of them handle latency. It turns out Apple's latest earbuds are pretty great, but they're still some way off being usable by people who need an instant response to things happening on-screen.

Sounds good, but not good enough

Coyle ran some tests by tapping the iPad Pro's screen with an Apple Pencil and measuring the time it took for earbuds to play a sound. The results showed that the iPad Pro's onboard speaker took 83ms to play the sound, giving us a baseline from which to work.

From there, the AirPods 1 took 296ms, and the AirPods Pro 167ms. The AirPods 2 were quicker at 153ms, with AirPods Pro winning the day with 126ms. That's a notable improvement over the original AirPods Pro but a little off the baseline. "Perhaps a more interesting point to note is that the second-generation AirPods Pro perform only 43ms worse than the built-in speakers," Coyle says.

However, as impressive as that might be, it isn't good enough. Coyle says that "there's still too much latency for audio feedback to feel snappy and responsive," meaning some use cases still need wired headphones. Those are likely to be professional audio mixers and podcasters, but for everyone else, there's a good chance that AirPods Pro 2 will be good enough for most things, if not all.

You can read more about the tests Coyle ran and his results on his blog, first spotted by 9to5Mac.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.